Viewpoint: NFL should protect women

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Shehan Jeyarajah

The National Football League is the most profitable sports league in the world, and possibly one of the most powerful institutions in the United States. Unfortunately, the league has a black mark when it comes to one of the most basic tenants of society: protecting women.

According to FiveThirtyEight’s Benjamin Morris, considering the relative wealth and status of NFL players, the domestic violence rate is “extremely high relative to expectations.” Since 2000, there have been 85 incidents of domestic violence.
The trend has not slowed since current NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has entered office; 44 players have been arrested since his term started in 2006.

Goodell and the NFL need to be held accountable by the public for its soft stance on domestic violence.

Former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice was arrested on Feb. 15 on charges of assault of his then-fiancée, now wife, Janay Palmer in a New Jersey casino. Entertainment conglomerate TMZ released footage of Rice dragging Palmer’s unconscious body out of an elevator.

For the felony domestic assault, Rice was suspended two games. For comparisons sake, Denver Broncos wide receiver Wes Welker tested positive for amphetamine, but was suspended four games for the failed drug test.

On Sept. 9, TMZ released a more complete security camera video of the altercation, which showed a more devastating look at Rice’s assault. The second video became a national story and brought the NFL significant criticism for the handling of the case.
In response, the league suspended Rice indefinitely; otherwise, Rice would have rejoined the Ravens after its Thursday night game. The Ravens later cut Rice.

There are two possibilities: either the NFL is lying and saw the tape and still gave Rice only two games, or the most powerful sports league in the world put less effort into an investigation of domestic assault than a gossip website.

Regardless of the truth, it does not matter. We know serious domestic violence occurred. We already saw Rice pulling a limp body from an elevator. Even before the second video was released, there was little question of what happened.

While Rice’s transgression was heinous, the public should not need the instant replay to recognize what has become a dirty trend in the NFL.

Rice is not the only player who the NFL has failed. Carolina Panthers’ defensive end Greg Hardy was convicted of assaulting and threatening to kill his former girlfriend; Hardy played on opening day.

After the Rice incident, Goodell said he was implementing stricter guidelines for players charged with domestic assault. Only days later, San Francisco 49ers defensive end Ray McDonald was booked on charges of felony domestic assault, seemingly a perfect opportunity to assert his new program. McDonald played on opening day.

The NFL is not the only body at fault. Out of the 85 domestic cases, charges were dropped in 29 cases, 22 resulted in players being sent to diversion programs, 15 resulted is a plea deal and only three resulted in jail time. You read that correctly, only 3.5 percent of NFL players arrested for domestic assault actually served any jail time. Those three served a grand total of 49 days between them.

The legal system is giving players a pass, but whether legally or morally, the NFL has a responsibility to control its players, a responsibility the league clearly does not take seriously.

The National Organization for Women, one of the leading women’s rights advocacy groups, called for Goodell to resign. If Goodell is not the man to clean up the scourge of domestic violence in the NFL, it may be time to find someone who can.

Shehan Jeyarajah is a junior political science major from Coppel. He is the sports editor for the Lariat. Follow him on Twitter @ShehanJeyarajah.